If your computer has a clicking Western Digital hard drive, remember that it is not a good sign. Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) are made of mechanical parts. Like any other mechanical machinery, an HDD is bound to face faults in its mechanical components after prolonged use. Usually, Western Digital HDDs last about 3 to 5 years. However, given the high quality of Western Digital HDDs, you can significantly increase their life depending on the use. Western Digital (WD) is one of the best digital storage media manufacturing companies.

In most cases, if your computer’s WD HDD produces a clicking sound, it is most likely at its last stages. Moreover, most clicking Western Digital hard drives are overly used and have been operational for several years. However, newer WD HDDs may also produce Clicking. In the case of newer HDDs, the Clicking is most likely a result of human errors during manufacturing.

You might be wondering, ‘if newer hard drives also have a chance of clicking, then what exactly causes the clicking ?’. To answer this question, we have to understand how an HDD works.

Table of Contents

How Does An HDD Work?

Components Of An HDD

A modern-day hard drive consists of a platter of magnetic disks mounted over a complex printed circuit board (PCB). This whole setup is enclosed in a metallic casing. There are several other tiny components in the hard disk. However, the most important ones include the magnetic platters and the read write-head (or the actuator arm). 

At first glance, the magnetic platter appears to be a stack of highly polished CDs. However, each of the disks in the HDD platter has a microscopic coating of thin magnetic material. Under a microscope, the layer may look like many spots or grains. Groups of these grains are magnetized and store the data on your computer. It is the actuator arm that is responsible for magnetizing these microscopic grains.

The read-write head in itself is a beautifully engineered piece of electronics. It is responsible for reading data from and writing data to the magnetic platters. It uses strong electromagnets, which write data to the disk. A magnetic sensor just behind the electromagnet reads data from the disk. It may look as if the actuator touches the magnetic platter. However, there is no contact between them. The distance between the actuator arm and the platter is of few microns. Keeping this small distance achieves better data storage capabilities.

Note that each disk in the platter has its actuator arm. In other words, there is also a stack of actuator arms.

Zoomed-in picture of an HDD platter and actuator arm which causes a clicking HDD.

Working Of The HDD

The HDD begins by receiving instructions from the computer. The instructions can be for either reading or writing data on the HDD. Moreover, the area where the data is to be written/ read is also specified in the instructions. The hard drive’s actuator arm moves to the specified area after fast spinning of platters. Once reached, the data is stored on the disk after magnetizing the specified area by the actuator. According to the data, the data is stored by magnetizing the tiny spots on the platters in the form of patterns. 

As for reading data, the magnet patterns are converted back into electrical signals containing information by the magnetic sensor. The amazing thing is that all this process is done rapidly by the HDD several times during the computer’s running.

Still confused about how an HDD works? Take a look at this amazing video about the history and working of HDDs by TEDEd.

Significance Of HDDs

Hard disk drives are amazingly architectured data storage devices. The modern version of a hard drive results from various contributions and inventions in the field of electromagnetism. Moreover, these innovations span over decades. Each little increment due to innovation in data storage technology exponentially boosted storage capacities. For example, the first hard drive ever created, the IBM RAMAC 350, had a maximum storage capacity of 3.75 MBs while being humungous in size. On the other hand, it is typical for a hard drive to store terabytes of data in present times. Undoubtedly, a whole century of work and innovations lies behind the development of the current HDD.

Where Does The Clicking Occur?

The main culprit for the clicking HDD sounds is the actuator. As we know that the actuator is responsible for the read/write functionalities of an HDD. Therefore, it is the most active part of the HDD. When practically observed, the actuator has really fast movement. For a clicking hard drive, you may observe that the head continuously strikes any of the objects in the HDD. It leads us to the next question, ‘what are the causes of the clicking sound in an HDD?’. We discuss it in the following section.

Zoomed-in picture of an HDD platter and actuator arm which causes clicking in the HDD.

What Causes The Clicking Western Digital Hard Drive?

Several reasons cause the actuator to malfunction and cause the clicking sound. In most cases, the actuator malfunctions because of wear and tear and the old HDD. When observed in an older Western Digital hard drive, data recovery professionals often call the clicking sound ‘the click of death’. Apart from age, the actuator has other technical reasons to misbehave. These reasons range from simple connectivity issues to more complex sector and component mismanagement and alignment. Let’s examine the causes one by one.

Physical Damage

The various moving parts in an HDD are quite sensitive to movement. It is the sole reason why computer casings and laptops provide well-held holders for housing HDDs. Nonetheless, you can never predict when an unfortunate event may damage your computer’s HDD causing data to be lost from the computer.

There are degrees to how much an HDD is damaged. Usually, the HDD’s actuator or platters are misaligned in medium levels of damage. This misalignment may cause the actuator to hit on various other components, causing the clicking HDD.

A HDD with a forcibly opened lid, depicting physical damage to a HDD and data loss due to clicking HDD

Connectivity Issues

A normally running HDD can also give the clicking sound if its electrical connections to the computer’s motherboard are not good. Simply put, the HDD may cause the clicking sound if there is not enough electric current for it to run. There can be several causes for faulty electrical connections to the HDD. The most common is the incomplete connection to the HDD via the SATA connector cable. There can be a loose connection or issues with the SATA cable itself. Other than that, electrical fluctuations in an area may malfunction various computer components, including the HDD.

Clicking on the HDD due to connectivity issues can be avoided by ensuring a continuous and stable current supply to it. This issue is rarely faced because usually, most PC users take such preventive measures regularly.

Issues In The Firmware Of The HDD

Like all other computer peripherals, all HDDs have firmware baked onto them to facilitate easy communication with the computer. Issues in the firmware of an HDD are a serious problem and can result in the complete corruption of data stored on it. The most common firmware issue in HDDs that cause clicking is the corruption of the Service Area sector. The service area sector contains data from the HDD manufacturer for the normal running of the HDD. If corrupted, the actuator arm will misbehave and cause a clicking sound.

Recoverring Data From A Clicking Hard Drive

First and foremost, it is important to know that you are at risk of data loss if you keep using a functional yet clicking HDD. Once the HDD stops, so does the access to the data. Therefore, you must shift your data as soon as possible to a new drive.

There is also the case where the computer detects a clicking HDD, but you can not access it. In such cases, you have to rely on data recovery software. The most commonly used data recovery software includes:

Finally, there is the worst scenario, where your HDD can neither be accessed by the computer nor by did the data recovery software work. If you find yourself in such a situation, your computer’s HDD has sustained major physical damage. Undoubtedly you have to rely on professional help. 

There are various other scenarios in recovering data from clicking the hard drive. You can check the data recovery methods for clicking hard drives for more information about these scenarios.

How JetData Can Help With Your Clicking WD HDD?

Recovering data from malfunctioned devices is not a fairly simple task. The more the damage to the disk, the harder the data recovery. At JetData, we provide customers with quality data recovery services. Our experienced professionals provide dedicated assistance and guidance for your data recovery problem. So give us a call at 830-267-9009 or begin your data recovery with us by clicking right here.